After taking cognizance of a Bar & Bench news report on the detention of a law graduate by her parents, the Patna High Court yesterday ordered that she be set free to do as she chooses.
A District Judge based in Bihar and his wife had placed their major daughter under house arrest after coming to know of her relationship with a Delhi-based advocate.
Initial efforts made by the advocate to free the woman through appeals before various channels including Union Ministry representatives and the police yielded little result.
However, letters penned by the woman shared through the NGO Love Commandos, and with the media bore testimony to her illegal detention.
On June 25, the Court passed an order directing the production of the woman. Accordingly, the woman, accompanied by her parents, appeared in the judge’s chambers the following day.
On the basis of an initial impression that the woman was indeed illegally detained, the Court ordered that she be moved out of her parents’ house and lodged in the guest house of her alma mater, Chanakya National Law University (CNLU) with police protection. Further, it was emphasized that the woman was free to interact with whomever she wished.
The case was posted for July 12 with a view to giving the woman some time to think over the matter and decide on her future plans.
When the matter was taken up yesterday, the woman informed the Court that she stood by her earlier stance that she wanted to marry the advocate. As noted in the judgment based by a Bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Rajeev Ranjan Prasad,
“As far as the corpus is concerned, she, in very categorical terms, expressed to us that she intends to marry the person concerned, she has applied for a job and she is proceeding to Delhi to prosecute her career and further life.“
However, before disposing of the case, the Court also took into account the apprehensions expressed by her parents. The Court noted,
“The question before this Court is as to whether in a habeas corpus petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, when the material available on record shows that the corpus is a major citizen, more than 23 years of age, be permitted to exercise freedom and liberty available to her under the Constitution and choose her own way of life or she be directed to stay with her parents as per their wishes and against her will.“
The answer to this question was readily found in the Supreme Court judgment in Hadiya’s case. As held in Hadiya, once it is clear that a person is not being illegally detained, the Court would have to respect her fundamental right to choice under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
In this light, the High Court observed,
“If we analyse the aforesaid judgement in the backdrop of facts and circumstances of the present case, even though we are conscious of the fact that the parents have various reasons to resist the wishes of their daughter, but once the daughter in categorical term on two occasions when she appeared before us, i.e. today and earlier to that on 26.06.2018, expressed her desire to have her own way of life and exercise her fundamental right, we have no hesitation in allowing her to go the way she desires and exercise the constitutional right available to her.
She is a free citizen and no one even her parents have a right to curtail or withhold the freedom available to her under the Constitution.”
Therefore, the Court has ordered,
“Accordingly, we direct that the corpus be set free. She is free to proceed to any place as she wishes. The corpus is free to move out on her own and prosecute her careers and the life in the way she desires.“
It has also been noted that the parents are at liberty to pursue legal remedies if they feel that their legal rights have been violated.
The Court has also directed that the needful be done so that the woman’s educational and other certificates be released to her from her family’s hands. Further, the Court has granted the woman police protection to allay immediate safety concerns.
Read the judgment: